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Words By Julie Espinosa, Photos By Armando Gallardo

Culinary delights of every flavor filled the Newseum Saturday night as Sips returned for its 8th year. The fundraiser featured dishes and drinks designed by some of the District’s finest chefs, distillers and artisans, who assemble every year to benefit two well-known organizations fighting hunger in the city: Martha’s Table and D.C. Central Kitchen.

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The doors opened to VIP attendees first, who also benefited from exclusive access to a secluded lounge with additional vendors (mostly of the mixology type) on the second floor. Here, VIPs could also pick up a gift bag with goodies including Wolfgang Puck artisanal chocolates, caramel popcorn, a choice of three hardbound signed coffee table cookbooks and what’s likely to be the most useful and relevant swag  — a meat thermometer courtesy of American Lamb.

All other attendees entered an hour later, while the groovy tunes of local funk/soul band Aztec Sun swelled in the main atrium. The group was classy and ravenous, arriving in posh duds and enough space in their bellies to conquer the event. Many took the opportunity to wear that tight sparkly thing they hadn’t touched since New Year’s Eve, without regard to how tight it might feel after one tour around the food stands. Although sparser in number than years past, the crowd was also as lively and cordial as ever. Tensions were only observed once — when a particular guest was caught cutting in line multiple times and helpless onlookers commiserated to “accidentally” spill their red wine on his shoes.

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The vendors were also reliably superb. From the original and expected, like founder Jose Andres’ Jaleo station or the popular Gordon Biersh kegs, to newbies like Misfit Juicery or Sous-Vide masters Cuisine Solutions, the event had something to suit every taste bud. Highlights were: deviled eggs by Arlington’s Carlyle, which were each carefully topped with the tenderest slice of bacon; the Hill Country BBQ brisket and macaroni & cheese, served at the booth which consistently had the longest line, and One Eight Distilling’s “Red-Headed Stepchild,” an adult beverage made from vodka made in the District, cranberry-cinnamon simple syrup, lime juice and ginger ale. Of course The Sweet Lobby and Dog Tag Bakery were there with pastries piled to the sky, while Martha’s Table and D.C. Central Kitchen had booths showcasing their own cuisine. Martha’s Table handed out a dish inspired by the children in their programs in tiny Chinese take out boxes. They also gave away printed versions of the Asian kale salad recipe for folks to take home and try in their own kitchens. Another novel addition to the evening’s festivities was a station that served not sustenance, but the flip side of nutrition — physical activity. Playworks, an organization providing coaches and playground services for schools across the country, provided hula hoops and jump ropes for people to work off some of the calories they consumed at other booths.

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All-in-all the evening was cozy and enjoyable. There are few opportunities to drink fine cocktails in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall, chow down on gourmet cuisine and artisanal goodies while reading archived funny pages from around the world, or linger in an elevator bar riding up and down throughout the evening. For these experiences, some new surprises, and the chance to support D.C. organizations working to end hunger we’ll keep coming back.

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